Mission life: THE KUKMIN DAILY

The urgent prayer request I received via SNS is a fake?

2016-02-03 17:31

Deacon Kim Myeong-sook received a KakaoTalk message in the early morning of February 2.

“In Afghanistan, 22 Christian missionaries are sentenced to death and will be executed tomorrow afternoon. Please pray hard for these missionaries. Thank you in advance for spreading this message quickly and as much as you can, so that more persons can join the prayer.”

Deacon Kim was shocked at the group message, which came in Korean as well as English. So she delivered it “quickly” to her church members and acquaintances. Not only Deacon Kim, but many others joined the wave. The more people joined, the more quickly and widely the message spread.

But that message turned out to be fake. Missionary Kim Dong-mun, who has worked in the Mideast for a long time, said, “This content is from February 2009, and is being recycled… It seems like a revised version of the prayer request circulated around the time of July 2007 about the Koreans who were taken hostage in Afghanistan.”

Many messages distributed through Facebook and KakaoTalk contain false or exaggerated facts such as this. But many persons believe them to be true, for they usually carry specific information such as “Prayer requests from missionary xx in yy region,” or are distributed by missionaries or pastors.

A person related to an ecumenical organization said, “It is worrisome that some pastors distort facts and stir up fear among Christians, when what they should be doing is providing accurate information to laypersons who cannot easily access it… I’m not sure why this kind of event takes place primarily among Christians.”

The problem is that most of such messages agitate fear of Islam. They appear to be delivering news about a specific incident, but in many cases the time, place and characters, as well as the photos, are made up.

Among recent messages getting massive circulation, there were the following fabrications: “An IS clergy kills a baby in a Christian family,” “A superb confrontation between Islam and the Australian female prime minister,” and “ISIS occupies Qaraqosh and is killing Christians.” Some look at the phenomenon suspiciously, questioning whether it is the intentional manipulation of public opinion for the purpose of passing anti-terrorism legislation (in Korea).

Missionary Kim commented, “These days the use of SNS to promote stereotypes or prejudice against a specific group of people or a certain issue is on the increase. We need to be wise, and recognize exaggerated or wrong information for what it is, in order to prevent the spread of such messages.” It is essential to confirm the truth of received messages, before believing them blindly and passing them on.

Reporter Narae Kim (narae@kmib.co.kr), with Yeara Ahn-Park (yap@kmib.co.kr)

Click here for the original article in Korean

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